Today I’d like to address a problem that has been plaguing us since the conversion to 25 man raids from 40 man raids back at the start of The Burning Crusade. Something that has been frustrating not only as a healer, but as a raid leader as well. The problem: consistent healing requirements (or lack thereof) through content.
When I walked uphill both ways to Molten Core, setting up your healing roster was simple: 5 Priests, 5 Druids, 5 Shaman. 15 slots of your 40 were dedicated to your healing team. Or, put mathematically, 37.5% of your raid roster was allocated to healers. As guild’s made the transition from 40 people to 25, somewhere that percentage got jumbled.
When The Burning Crusade started, I think it was fairly common to run an 8 healer roster for most encounters. Broken down, you just took two of each class – at least until you got to Sunwell, and half of your healers had to reroll Shaman. Most encounters could be done plus or minus a healer, and most raids were run with 7-9 depending on the encounter. In fact, I think the only encounter that really favored 9 was Illidan, and even then, only while learning the fight. I have memories of our Feral druids having to respec Resto on nights when we were short healers.
However, I think the average was probably 7-8 healers for most raid teams. Or, put mathematically, ~32% of your raid. A slight decline, but nothing that was too out of whack.
The introduction of Wrath of the Lich King – and more specifically, the content patch that introduced Ulduar, is where I think things started to go amiss, especially with hard modes coming forth in earnest. You were required to have a deep healing roster, because you had fights like Heroic Freya where you took eight healers to meet the damage requirements. But then you had fights like Heroic Hodir, where we three healed our first kill. The rest of the zone was somewhere in between – with no level of consistency. 5 healers for Yogg, 8 healers for Thorim, 6 for XT. As you cleared through the zone, no two fights had the same requirement, and your healing team was constantly adjusting to the requirements of the encounter.
In simpler terms you ranged from needing between 12% and 32% of your raid being allocated to healers.
As we entered Cataclysm, I had hoped that this would be somewhat alleviated. And for most of T11, I felt it was – at least a bit. We ran most of our T11 content with 7 healers. We dropped to 6 for Heroic Cho’gall, Nef and Sinestra. And we ran 8 for pre-nerf Magmaw and Chimearon. But we pretty stubbornly kept 7 of our raid slots allocated to healers throughout the content, at least as much as we could.
And then came Firelands. We cleared Normal out in a week, using 7 healers for everything. However, as we approached heroic content, we found that we were once again yo-yoing healers. We 7 healed Heroic Shannox, because we could. But we had to drop down to 6 for Alysrazor and Rhyolith. Back up to 7 for Beth’tilac. Down to 5 for Baleroc and Staghelm. And we are now finding ourselves at 4 healers for Heroic Ragnaros. We are again jockeying between 14% and 28% of our raid team for healers.
And it sucks.
The Problem with “Off Spec” DPS
I am sure that some of the people who read this post are going to say “well, that’s what Dual Specs are for”. Only, it’s not really the elegant solution that certain people think that it is. Let me see if I can explain why. For starters, people who join a raid to heal, generally want to heal. It’s where they feel they are strongest. It’s their comfort zone. And most importantly, it’s what they find fun. Which is, consequently, why they are doing it.
Secondly, healing is a very different beast to DPSing. Many of the base mechanics of what you do as a healer have little or nothing to do with what you do as a DPS. People who aren’t comfortable at DPS, of find DPSing natural to them, are going to flail a bit when it comes to having to DPS. They aren’t necessarily going to be the same caliber player in a spec and role that they aren’t comfortable performing. It’s frustrating. Being strong DPS takes dedication and practice. Just because you are an amazing Bicyclist, doesn’t mean that you can hop on a Unicycle and not fall off. It’s a completely different game, and not everyone will excel at it. Which in turn means that if you are having to sit healers to bolster DPS, you are likely better bringing in a full member of your DPS team than asking a healer uncomfortable in their DPS spec to swap specs.
The worst part of this is that the only way to get better is by doing. Which means that they have to do something that they don’t particularly enjoy just so that they aren’t a liability when asked to fill that role. Which means that they have to spend even less time doing what they truly want to do (healing), just so they can get better at something they don’t really want to be doing (DPSing). It’s a very nasty catch 22.
Thirdly, there is always going to be a gear discrepancy. I always keep a full balance set. But it’s always behind our full time DPS. For starters, I don’t get my set bonuses until I have all of my resto gear, and I just got my four piece moonkin bonus last night. And of those four pieces, only one is heroic quality. The rest of my gear is a mish-mash of resto gear, and gear that I can throw together outside of raids through rep rewards of valor point purchases. Occasionally I may get a DPS upgrade in a raid, but they are rare because healers aren’t going to be awarded DPS gear over a main spec DPS. Which, in turn, means that my DPS gear isn’t always the best optimized, and it’s generally at least half a tier behind. This means that even if I can do awesome DPS – I’m likely still not going to be able to pull the same numbers of an equally skilled person in their better, main spec gear. Again, meaning that it would be more beneficial to the raid to bring in that player over me in a DPS spot.
Lastly, it can be a very demoralizing experience that can eventually break people. People in competitive raid teams want to be competitive. They want to do their best. They want to be performers. And if they are constantly at the bottom, in their off spec role, it will eventually get to them. As can comments that are meant to be a joke, or even comments meant to be helpful, about their performance in their off spec. The other night I bit the bullet and DPS’d for Heroic Staghelm. It was my first time for that fight in that role. I was mildly competitive with some of our lower DPS – but when push came to shove, at the end I beat the tank. I’m one of our top performers as a healer – and what I got to say about my undergeared, and uncomfortable performance as DPS was “Hey! I beat the tank…at least”. Frankly, I was embarrassed.
We have a resto druid that’s been playing moonkin for 3/4ths of our raid time for the past month as we push heroic Rag, who I am positive has been in tears on the other side of her computer on more than one occasion in that time. She is trying her ass off, I don’t have a doubt in my mind about that. But when push comes to shove, she’s not comfortable with the spec, and as a guild we are asking her to do something she’s not comfortable with for the success of the raid for an extended period of time. And she’s a champ and doing it – but I don’t doubt that she feels miserable many of our raid nights. In fact, I know that she feels like she’s a detriment, because she’s told me she feels that way and has openly offered to sit out for someone who will do more DPS.
And you know what? It makes me feel like shit to know that she’s uncomfortable and borderline miserable for 3 of our 4 raid nights. And yet here I am asking her to keep her chin up and keep trucking along…because I can only bring four fucking healers into the fight and I value her too much as a player and asset to our raid team for her to miss the kill.
The inconsistency is unfair to players.
In the end, it’s the players that suffer when there are such huge swings of inconsistency in what a raid requires to succeed. It’s the raid leaders who have to determine which healers to bench fight after fight. It’s the healers who have to attempt to learn to be comfortable and viable as a DPS, something that very few raiders have asked of them. It’s the raids that have to build a deeper DPS bench so that they can accommodate fights that need a fraction of the healers as others, and conversely have to be benched when a fight needs more healers to succeed.
In the end, it would be amazing if the development team could pick a set number of healers that they think should be viable for every encounter. I don’t care if that number is 5, 6, 7 or 8. I’d just like to stop having to constantly adjust to meet the demands of an encounter. I’d like to be able to build a healing roster and know that I’m not going to have to bench half of them (or offspec them) for several of the encounters in a content tier. I’d just like a little consistency. And I don’t think that it’s too much to ask.